Oregon soccer’s defense believes their unity to be the key to success this season
If you were to ask the defensive crew of Oregon’s soccer team to describe themselves, they would use one word:
“We say ruthless because you got to be, as a defender you got to love to kick people,” senior Reilley Moore said. “You have to want to run through people. We want to do the dirty work. It’s rare that people have a passion for defending.”
Lead by senior goalkeeper Abby Steele, who broke the Oregon record for shutouts with 17 last Thursday, the defensive line has been confident in play so far and proud of its improvements from last season.
“I think we are doing really well, actually,” Steele said. “We haven’t conceded as many goals as last year’s beginning of the season and we just are positive.”
Moore sees the defense’s mental strength as the key change from this season compared to last.
“I think our mentality this season is a lot stronger than it was last season and it has helped us, especially us five,” Moore said. “We were a lot stronger than we were and it shows.”
The Colorado Spring native added that the defense’s commitment to the ball and strong mindset to win 1-v-1 battles has ultimately been what has really helped the team, so far. Currently, the Ducks (5-3-1) sit at fifth in the Pac-12 for goals allowed with six. This weekend, Oregon will travel down to Arizona to face both the Sun Devils and Wildcats. Although it is still early in the season for the Ducks, the defense said one of their main goals is to make it into postseason play.
“We are hoping to make the NCAA tournament, it would be the first time in Oregon women’s soccer history, so that would be really special,” redshirt freshman Caitlyn Wong said.
The defense is one of the more experienced group of players on the team, and with four seniors Moore, Steele, Riley Smith and Allie Rodriguez, they see the time on their collegiate soccer careers running out soon, so their eyes are set on the prize.
“I think that’s (going to the NCAA tournament) really important, especially to our senior class because we want to go out with a bang and really want to make a difference,” Riley Smith, a senior defender, said. “We really want to do it, so I think our mentality is all there.”
With their combined experience, they believe the time they have spent together has really created a bond on and off the field.
“We have gotten a lot closer over the four years we have been here because we came in with a really big class. We had our cliques and everything, but over the years we got a lot closer and the fact we are playing in the back line together now is just more helpful,” Steele said.
The tight-knit crew added they have a ritual they do before each game. A little saying and a handshake. But the details are a secret and chances are it will stay that way forever.
“We are the only group that is playing together the whole game,” Moore said. “We all know we have each other’s back.”
Follow Beth Maiman on Twitter @bethamaiman
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